This book was a recommendation from my friend Emily. I had never heard of it, but promptly looked it up and was intrigued. Lucky for me, they had a copy waiting at my local library branch. I picked it up, started reading, and could barely put it down. Even after it ended, it has stuck with me in a way that good books do. I’ve thought about it more than once. I’ve pondered its mysteries. It’s in my brain now, and I like it.
Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart (pseudonym for Emily Jenkins)
Published: May 13, 2014
Format I Read: Hardback
Synopsis: Cadence is a Sinclair, part of a rich, white New England family with “Standards” and “Expectations”. Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat (they call themselves “The Liars”) spend their summers on the Sinclair family private island. The summers are filled with gourmet meals, lazy beach days, Scrabble games, and golden retrievers, except one summer, things do not go as expected. Will Cadence come through able to uphold the Sinclair family name or will the lies make it to heavy to bear?
Thoughts: Lockhart’s writing is very readable but also poetic. My husband called it “snappy”, and I agree. It draws you in from the very beginning and begs you not to put it down. She easily moves between prose and verse. This could be distracting, but I found Lockhart’s use of it well done. The verse allowed you to slow down and take in what was happening. The main character, Cadence, suffers a head trauma that causes her to lose her memory of one summer. She sees flashes of what happened but the full picture eludes her. I think the shifting format of the story is a nice echo of the shifting pieces of Cadence’s mind. There are references to fairy tales throughout, and one particular part I enjoyed was Lockhart’s repetition of a fairy tale involving three daughters. The tale changed as the book went on mirroring what was happening in story. It was an interesting way to showcase Cadence’s changing realizations about what really went on that forgotten summer.
I read a review that said they felt Cadence’s voice was too immature for a seventeen-year-old. I didn’t think that as I read it, but when I went back to ponder this, I could see where this argument could be made. However, after the accident when she was fifteen, I felt that Cadence stopped maturing. She began suffering from debilitating migraines which essentially put her on hold. She couldn’t finish school or lead a normal life, and until she was able to remember the accident and begin to heal, I think she remained a fifteen-year-old unable to move forward.
I really enjoyed the way the romance was handled. Cadence and Gat are in love, and although their relationship is a large part of the plot, it is never awkward or overpowering. Lockhart is unafraid to touch on sexism, classism, and racism as well. There are a lot of powerful themes going on throughout the whole book which keeps you very engaged. This is a fast read, and if you’re anything like me, you will blow through it before you even realize it’s over. But when it’s over, boy is it over. I did not see the ending coming at all. It was a true shocker that left me spinning, and even better, left me thinking about and dissecting it for days. I don’t read much YA, so I can’t compare this to other books in the genre, but when you find a book that grabs you the way this one does, I think genre becomes irrelevant. A good book is a good book. Period. And this, my friends, is a good book. Well worth your reading time.